As Atlantic City’s financial woes continue, one New Jersey Assemblyman has floated the idea of legalizing marijuana as a possible solution to the crumbling tourist spot’s issues. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) has introduced a bill that, if passed, would place a question on the ballot asking voters to permit the commercial cultivation, sale, and consumption of marijuana by adults 21 and older within city limits.
According to the bill, regulation of marijuana would fall under the Attorney General’s jurisdiction, like the casino industry does. Sale, possession, and consumption of pot would only be legal within the city limits and smoking would not be permitted in public, on the beach, or on the Boardwalk.
Gradually declining tourism has left the city with an $80 million budget deficit this year. A possible state takeover has been looming for a while, but some city officials and residents are strongly opposed and have discussed seeking bankruptcy protection instead.
When Denver legalized marijuana in 2014, sales of the drug generated more than $40 million in tax revenue for the city in the first three quarters, not including licenses and fees for affiliated businesses. Seattle, which legalized the drug six months later, drew in nearly $45 million in taxes in the first 12 months.
According to the bill, half of the proceeds from the 20 percent sales tax would go to the city’s coffers. The remainder would go to road projects, women’s health programs, and drug enforcement efforts. Assuming Atlantic City brought in a comparable amount of tax revenue to other cities, it would be on the road to making up the shortfall.
Gusciora is further hopeful that legalization will also spur a surge in tourism. “I think that you would get gamblers back again from Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New York. And, let’s face it, the two demographic groups that come to Atlantic City are the Woodstock seniors and 20-year-olds,” he told NewsWorks.org. A 2013 visitor demographic study found that 59% of Atlantic City tourists are over 50 years old. An additional 9% are between 18 and 29 years old. “That’s the perfect demographics for recreational marijuana,” he said.
Currently, recreational marijuana is illegal in all of New Jersey, including Atlantic City, and even a drug possession charge can carry with it prison time and hefty fines. If you or a loved one are facing a marijuana charge, contact Adam H. Rosenblum of the Rosenblum Law Firm. Email or call 888-815-3649 for a free consultation today.